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Introduction

 

The Story of Air America

Many people have never heard of Air America or its role in the Vietnam War. Its roots trace back to World War II and the famous All Volunteer Group (AVG) "Flying Tigers" commanded by famed General Claire Chennault.

After the war's end, Chennault and Whiting Willauer organized Civil Air Transport, (CAT), which airlifted food and supplies into mainland China to the Nationalist Government during the Chinese Civil War that raged into 1946.

CAT was a vital airline in the Far East for many years and a very successful one at that, flying hundreds of thousands of paid hours. In the late 1950's CAT morphed into Air America and became a secretly owned asset of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

This newly formed airline worked throughout Southeast Asia. Although Air America's aircraft were considered civilian, they were still frequently shot at during their missions. The Geneva Accords declared that Laos was "neutral" and off limits to combat operations by the Communists and the Americans, but the North Vietnamese ignored this, and moved men and materials down the Ho Chi Minh Trail enjoying the protection of the Laotian "neutrality".

The CIA began working with the pro-democracy Hmong Laotian hill tribes. The Hmong people fought bravely as freedom fighters inside Laos on behalf of the United States. This action became known as "The Secret War" and it lasted until the forced pullout of American forces from Vietnam in 1975.

Air America secretly provided transportation and food for the Hmong people inside of Laos. Led by famed General Vang Pao, the Hmong saved countless American lives by damaging the flow of enemy troops and supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Air America served as the air link between the United States and the Hmong, thus providing "plausible deniability" for US involvement in secret military operations in Laos.

Covert operations were just one part of the overall profile of Air America. Air America's aircraft flew thousands of hours of humanitarian support missions, rescued thousands of refugees, dropped tons of food, rescued downed American Military Flyers (who were never listed as lost in Laos), all while running a very efficient scheduled airline throughout the Far East.

Over 240 Air America employees lost their lives during their operations. We are restoring our aircraft and educating people about Air America in tribute to the courage, dedication and devotion of all Air America employees. There will never be another Air America, and its history shall always demonstrate how the people of Air America proudly lived up to their famous motto "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime...Professionally."

 


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